Part 3: The Front Panel and Overlay

Back Bracing

First, I have to start with something I forgot about the back. After I had done all the work I talked about in the last entry, I added some reinforcement to the panel. I added two horizontal braces to the back. They have a rabbet on each end so the brace makes contact with the panel. The brace is attached by one screw on each end. In addition, there is a small dab of glue in the center of the panel. Gluing across the whole panel could have caused issues with the natural expansion and contraction of the panel.

The Front Panels

Honestly, the front panels were just like the backs, except smaller. I did them next because I didn’t have to readjust the jigs like the bed rail router jig or the mortising jig on my drill press. The curve at the bottom of the front panel uses the same template as the curve at the top of the back.
The rails and stiles were cut. I made the mortises and tenons for the joinery and the bed hardware. I cut the panels to rough size and used the assembled frame to get a rough shape. Using a compass I extended the curved portion of the shape approximately 1/4″. I then assembled them using the draw bore technique.
Any time you have wood captured by other wood in a cross grain method, you have to worry about expansion and contraction. With frame and panel construction, this can lead to the panel shifting, rattling, gaps opening, or possibly even the panel falling out.
It turns out a simple solution is available. You can put compressible spacers in the panel grove. They will compress when the panel expands and prevent damage to the frame. When the panel contracts they will hold the panel stable and centered. They look like little black rubber balls and I got mine from Rockler.

Overlay

Overlay is simply a second piece of wood (in this case) attached to the face of a background piece. At the request of the Barony, the original design was modified so that there would be a solid ash panel with a contrasting walnut overlay.
For the backs and sides, I had to use the same process to glue up panels of walnut to achieve the width I needed. This did allow the overlay to be book-matched for the back panel. The side panels were actually glued up from three pieces. The overlay on the front was small enough to be cut from a single piece.

After they are dry and sanded flush, the panels could be cut to size and shape. For the backs, this only meant width and the mountain motif in the top. The sides also included a curve at the bottom. For the curve, I could use the same curve template from the top of the back.
The top is the same on all overlays. First, I had to mark and cut the top of the panel to match the intersection with the frame. For the back this would be the same curve at the top. The side panel had both the standard curve at the bottom and a decreasing height curve on the top. The overlays for the front would have a straight top and a curved bottom.
I would mark the center of the panel. Then I would draw a line 30 degree off the center line, on each side, until it reached the edge of the panel. Next I would mark the halfway point between the center and the edge and again draw lines 30 degrees off those lines until they intersected the edge or another line. These lines were then cut with a jig saw.
Going back to the two lines off center, they needed to be extended. This is to give the appearance that the center mountain is in front of the side mountains. These lines were hand carved with a 6-12 sweep gouge and mallet.

After that, the hammer and stars needed to be cut. For the large back panels, I used a jig saw. For the smaller side panels, I used a scroll saw.

For the front panel I took a different tact. Before I resawed that piece, I cut the shape and decorations. Then I used the bandsaw to cut off slices and sanded them on the drum sander. This meant I only had to do the complex cuts once.

All of the overlays were glued into place. Since the grain on the side and back ran the same direction on the panel and overlay, there is no concern about expansion/contraction. The size of the pieces involved on the front panel rendered that a non issue as well.

Advertisements

Thor’s Mountain Thrones – Part 2: In the beginning (and the back)

I decided to start with the backs.  Go big or go home right? 

Panels

  The panels were made from a single piece of ash wood. I cut the board to be slightly longer than the needed height for the panel, then jointed one edge. I ran the boards through the bandsaw to resaw them closer to the final thickness. This meant that each panel could be bookmatched from a single board.
  Before glue up, I ran each panel through the planer. My planer was not wide enough to handle the panels once they were glued up, so it had to be done before. I used this to get down to almost final thickness.
  Since someone asked, I could not use biscuits to help with alignment since the panels were so thin. I would clamp cauls across the width to help ensure flatness. 
  The final shape is cut on the bandsaw. But I waiting until after I had the frame done to mark the final size and shape.

Frames

  The first step was to get the curve right. It was going to feature prominently on four of the five parts of the throne. I grabbed a scrap piece of poplar that was longer than the widest component. In the center of the length but near the top I set a nail.  Then I did the same at the two ends near the bottom, making sure that the two end nails were the exact same distance from the center nail. Finally I bent a flexible metal ruler above the center nail and below the end nails. That became my template for drawing the arc. 
  The arc was cut on the bandsaw, then refined on a disc sander. This was a critically important piece. I did make an error early by not marking the edges of where the arch should fall. This caused an error on the first set of top rails I made.

  If you look at the bottom of the picture on the right, you can see the arc is off center on the middle rail. Thus scrap wood is born. You can also see the layout for the tenons on the left, and the finished tenon on  the far right. The tenons were either cut freehand or on the tablesaw. If it was a curved piece done on the table saw, I cut the cheeks before I cut the arcs. 
  The side and bottom rails were much simpler, being straight. I used a mortising attachment on my drill press to cut the corresponding mortises.  I waited until the dry assembly to mark and cut the arc at the top of the vertical stiles. 

  The groves were cut with either the table saw or the router table with a slot cutting bit. The router was the way to go, but I was initially hesitant, but it was the only way I had to do a curved slot.
  I used the dry fitted frame to mark the shape on the panel blank. Then I used a compass to add 1/4″ to the drawing. That became my cut line. It was ripped to width on the table saw and the curve was cut on the bandsaw. The shape was refined with a block plane, rasps, files, and sanding. 

  So, now that I could dry fit the piece it was time for assembly, which is going to involve a few tangents.  Before I head off though, I will say I did the initial sanding on everything before assembly.  It’s just easier that way.


Hardware

  I decided to install the hardware in the rails before assembly.  It’s just easier to manage a single 1″x2″ than to wrestle with the whole of the back. I used the Rockler heavy duty bed hardware (https://www.rockler.com/heavy-duty-wrought-steel-bed-rail-fasteners-4-pack-select-size) This tends to work well on most projects I have seen it used on.
  If you do not inlay the pieces enough, they will be very loose and prone to fall apart. If you mortise them in too deep, they will not be able to fully engage and “lock in.” I have found the best fit is so that the surface of the hard ware is just a hair below the surface of the wood.
  The first step was to create a template to route the mortise for the hardware. You have to make this mortise 12 times for each throne. It’s worth having a template. I did a template that worked with a guide collar, but I’m sure there are other ways to do it. I also added rails to the bottom of the template so it would always be centered on a 3/4″ board. 
  To fix the template in place, I would put blue masking tape on both the rail and the bottom of the template. Then I put a drop of thin super glue on the blue tape. The super glue adhears the two pieces of the tape, which temporarily locks the template in place. Then rout away

  After routing you’re left with a rounded mortise which you will have to square up using a chisel. You’ll also need to need to make some deeper mortises.
  The male portion of the bed hardware has a weld on the back. So, you’ll need to make two slight indention in the center of your mortise to accommodate these. When you mount the female portion of the hardware, you have to make substantially longer and deeper mortises to accommodate the hooks on the male portion when assembled.
  I  was luck in that I had my mortiser set up on my drill press. So I just used it to make these additional mortises. But I have, in the past, done the work with just a chisel.
  ****Warning****  The female piece of hardware has a definite top and bottom. The slots are closer to the screw hole on the top.  This is to allow room for the bottom hook to engage without hitting the bottom screw.
Don’t forget to drill a pilot hole for you screws. You’re drilling into fairly narrow boards.


Drawboring

  Drawboring is a method of connecting mortise and tenon joinery. It involves forcing a dowel through a set of holes which are slightly off set.  It’s an old method of assembling mortise and tenon joinery that doesn’t require glue or clamps.


Dowels

  Now, for tangent number three. Most commercial dowels are turned on a lathe. This method ignores the wood grain. Wood is strongest when the grain runs throughout it’s length. A turned down could have wood grain running in any direction. But there is a way to ensure the grain runs the length of the dowel.
  Riving is the act of splitting wood, like you would with an axe. Riven wood splits along the grain lines. The result is a stronger length of wood than sawn wood. So the first step of making strong blanks is to rive dowel blanks. I did this with an axe. I would place the axe on the end of the piece of wood (end grain). Then I would hit the back of the axe with a joiner’s mallet.

The axe with a blank on top.

  The next thing you need is a draw plate.  A draw plate is a hardened piece of steel with a series of holes in a decreasing diameter.  You take your dowel blank and hammer it through each hole until you get to the desired size.

  This will give you a super strong dowel. That doesn’t mean commercial dowels will not work for this, but I believe you will have significantly more breakage as you try to seat the dowel.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled first tangent.


Assembly

  The first step is to drill a hole through the mortise cheeks the same diameter as your dowel. Make sure to use a piece of scrap in the mortise to prevent blowout. This is a perfect use for that scrap piece you used to test the tenon cutting setup.
  Once you have the hole through the mortise, you dry assemble the joint. I used a clamp to make sure the joint was nice and tight. Then you use a pencil to scribe the circumference of the hole on the tenon.

  So, now that you have the hole location marked on the tenon, it’s time to ignore it. Disassemble the piece. Use something to punch a center divot where you need to drill the hole. Don’t center the hole on the mark you made. You want to be 1/32-1/16″ closer to the shoulder of your tenon. This will make the hole slightly off set.  This is where the drawbore gets it’s mechanical advantage

You can see here the mark vesus where the hole is. I also missed high on this one, that was an oops.

  While it could be said that drawbores don’t need glue, I used some anyway. I put glue on the tenons and in the mortises. Assemble the joint. If you like, you can use a clamp to help get the holes closer to alignment which makes the dowel insertion a little easier. You should also taper the the front of the dowel just a bit. A dab of glue on the dowel then a few taps of a mallet to drive the dowel home, all the way through both pieces of wood.

And for the final pieces:

Links to other parts of the blog:

Thor’s Mountain Thrones, Part 1- Bidding and Design

On May 21st, 2018, I received an email from the Baron and Baroness of Thor’s Mountain. They were seeking bids for a set of “Viking/Norse-style Thrones.” It was an honor to be asked to bid. The deadlines were very tight, with bids due by June 4th and the thrones themselves due by the end of September. I had to get busy quickly.
  They had provided a few examples of Thrones as inspirations for our designs:

  They had also specified elements from their device and Norse culture.

  All three of the examples share the same general shape, so that part was easy to design. All three of them also featured pierce work. So, the first part I designed was the back.  I like to use Sketchup 2017 if you’re interested. I highly recommend it. I wanted the mountains from their device on the back. So this is what I came up with:


  The bid had also requested the presence of the Baronial motto, “The Mountain Stands Victorious.” That’s what the runes at the top of the back are. The light colored horizontal bar in the middle is the rear seat support.
I wanted to echo the back on the front. I also wanted to echo the curve. Now, the image of the griffin represents a carved item which will be added later. But they don’t exactly blend in in this image.

  For the sides, I decided to offer a choice of four different decorative motifs. The curve on the bottom was again a copy of the top curve of the back. The top curve on the sides had to be a different curve in order to match the feel of the original sample designs. 

  The thrones would break down like most of the Meridian thrones, using bed rail hardware. Two sets on the back, and one set on the front. 
  I was awarded the bid. The initial feed back was that the predominance of pierce work was not universally loved.  After some consultations some decisions were made. The mountain motif would be used on the side panel as well. In addition, each of the walnut panels would be backed with a solid ash panel to match the frames.
  And so the final design was:

Next time, we start on the construction.

Master Johannes’ Coronet Box

At the Coronation of Bryce and Rhiannon, I had one of the highest honors betowed upon me. Queen Rhiannon and Mistress Gwynhwyvaer approached me and asked to comision a box for Master Johannes’ venerable coronet. Master Johannes passed before I joined the SCA, but I have always admired his legacy and his contributions to the SCA and the Kingdom.

Master Johannes the Black of the Athanor is a legend in the Kingdom of Meridies.  He was a member of both the Order of Laurel and the Order of the Pelican. He was an avid herald and created meticulous records during his time as the Pennon Herald of Meridies. I am mostly familiar with his efforts on behalf of the Equestrian community. He was one of the early drivers of equestrian in the SCA and authored the Meridian Book of the Horse.

 


Construction

He was a unique individual, so I wanted to do something special and just a standard square box. My original plan had been to do an oval, but two things stopped me. First, an oval is much harder than round.  Secondly, the wreath is actually pretty close to a circle. So circle it was.

WARNING!  – Math ahead

I started by figuring out the geometry of the piece. I had 5/4 walnut that I intended to use. When creating a segmented piece, the more pieces you have, the less waste you have.  I needed about 10″ in diameter in the inside. I needed to increase that diameter to include the thickness of the walls and the padding/lining.  I was aiming for about a 13″ outside diameter.

To minimize waste, I wanted to use a large number of segments. I picked 24, and I honestly can’t remember why.  I played in sketchup for a while to try to get the layout right, and that’s the number I ended up settling on.  With 24 pieces, each segment has to traverse 15 degrees (360/24=15).  This means each piece needs a 7.5 degree angle on each side.

To get a 13 inch diameter, I need 40.8 inches of circumference.  40.8 divided by my 24 sections gives me 1.7″ per section.  1 7/8″ is 1.875″, so each section will have a length of 1 7/8″ on the long/outer side, for a total circumference of 45″. This means the inside, or short side, will be 1 9/16″.  1 9/16″ gives me a circumference of 37.5 and an 11.94″ diameter on the inside.  My desired 13″ diameter lies in the middle of that range.

End math

I rough planed and jointed the lumber. While this project was destined for the lathe, I had to ensure the pieces were uniform and ready for glue up. Any small deviation is magnified 24 times by the time you are done.  Then I went to set my miter saw to 7.5 degrees. It turns out there is no stop or mark for 7.5 degrees on my saw.

It turns out I have a digital gauge I can put on my table saw to tilt the blade to a fairly precise degree.  I tilted the blade to 7.5 degrees, then cut a scrap piece.  I used that scrap to set my miter saw bevel. (My miter saw is more trustworthy and stable then my table saw. 48 slices later I had 24 identical trapezoidal pieces of walnut.

I learned a trick from Frank Howarth on YouTube. When you are gluing up a circle out of segments, don’t do it all at once.  Remember earlier when I said you can multiply mistakes by 24 times?  Instead, glue up two halves of the circle.  Then you can use sandpaper to flatten the mating surface of the two halves.  Even though you loose a minute amount of perfect roundness, you will get that back in the turning.  I used a woven strap to clamp the round shape like a tourniquet.

Once the circle was formed, I glued it to a sacrificial plywood backer.  Once dry the backer was attached to a lathe face plate for turning.  Using wood glue like this may seem like overkill, but I knew there would be a lot of torque during the turning and I did not want this thing coming off.

On the lathe I turned the form to round inside and out.  I then parted the form off the sacrificial backer.

After that I used hot glue to attach what would be the bottom to the same sacrificial backer.  I then cut a rebate in the bottom to fit the internal diameter of the main body.  Then I repeated the same with the top to be.  I glued the bottom in to place.  Once dry I used my router and flush trim bit to “cut” the top and bottom to the exact size and shape of the body.

Now to the carving.


Carving

The request was to not have his arms, which were willed to Sir Lugh, on the box. But they did want his athanor and augmentation on it.  I also want to include the laurel wreath.

IMG_5614

For the sides, I had a lot of area to cover. Given his attachment to equestrian I wanted jousters. But I needed something else to take up space.  So, I added laurel wreaths. So, around the circumference are two sets of jousting knights broken up by two laurel wreaths.

IMG_5400

So, now is when I hit the unexpected.  One of the most important skills of a wood worker is to read grain.  It’s doubly so for the wood carver.  It turns out that carving a round surface is hard. Even worse, turning a round surface when the grain changes direction every 1.7 inches.  It was not the easiest time.

That being said, the carving was done by my normal method.  I would use an appropriate shaped gouge to outline the shape. I would then ground the surrounding. The final step was adding detail to the figures.

Now, diapering is important on a project like this.  It hides the unevenness of the background. It adds interest.  But most importantly, it makes the designs pop out of the wood. I went with a simple cross hatch on a 45 degree angle for this project.

Initially I didn’t intend to do diapering on the top, but I decided it needed it as well once I got done with the elements.

I finished the box with a couple of coats of linseed oil.

Foundry (Not woodworking)

So for a non-woodworking project, I needed to melt copper in an effort to make bronze. I have a small electric foundry which I thought I could use.  It turns out, the capacity is too small and it can only hold about half of what I need.  So, in a very Morden/MacGuyver type of way, I decided to build a foundry.

IMG_1798
Small foundry at work.

First I needed a plan. I wasn’t planing on using this foundry often, so speed was more important than durability. I found Grant Thompson/King of Random’s plans for the mini foundry. In a later update he admits they are not the most durable thing, but he gives guidance on how to possibly extend their life.  I’ll put links to the videos down below. As I go through the build, I will note the changes I made.


Casting the Foundry

The first thing I had to do was make the foundry. Using a 5 gallon bucket, I mixed up a 50-50 mix of playground sand and Plaster of Paris. I used a 2.5 quart plastic bucket with the handle removed as my scoop.  I went with approximately 1.75 buckets of plaster and 1.75 buckets of sand.  The dry goods were then mixed very well by hand.  I then added 1.25 buckets of water.  This is all according to the instruction video.  Grant must be used to a drier climate than we have in Georgia. I ended up adding a little more sand and plaster to thicken the mix.
I lined a 10 quart galvanized steel bucket with coarse steel wool which had been unrolled. This will act as reinforcement and should extend the life of the foundry. Next the plaster mixture was poured over the wool.  Try to keep the wool to the side and bottom.  To form the hollow where the crucible will sit, insert the 2.5 quart plastic bucket in the center of the mixture. You will need to weigh it down with something.  I filled it with water and set a brick on top, but if you have something solid I think it will work better. You want the top of the small bucket to be even with the top of the plaster.
Let the plaster dry for about an hour to an hour an a half.  Then take a large pair of pliers and grasp the edge of the bucket in the center and try to ‘roll it up.’  The bucket should pop out and you should be left with a smooth void in the center.

Now we need to make a hole for air or torch, depending on what fuel source you use. Take a 1 3/8″ hole saw and drill a hole about 1/3rd of the way down the foundry. Angle the hole downward. You can see in this picture the hole with the torch (more on it later) inserted.IMG_1813

For the lid, Grant used a specific bucket.  I did not have that type of bucket, but I did have an extra 5 gallon bucket.  It turns out the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket is almost exactly the same size as the mouth of the foundry’s bucket. So I used that for the mold. It resulted in two issues which I will discuss in a bit.

The same 1 to 1 ratio of sand to plaster is used for the top. I just eyeballed it until I had 4-5″ of depth in the bucket-mold. Add water until the mix is a loose pancake batter consistency. Insert unrolled steel wool around the edges and make sure it gets fully covered in the mixture.  Try to minimize the steel wool in the center.  I just left it solid and drilled the center out with a 4″ hole saw later.  My recommendation is that you use something to mold the center open instead (like I did during the foundry molding).

Now we need handles.  After the mix has set just enough to hold them vertical, insert two 4″ U bolts that have a bar between them. Should look like this:

bolt
Photo from http://homedepot.com

So, the issues. First the dry lid would not let go of the mold, so I had to cut the bucket up.  If you are going to try to use this method, you may wish to consider using some type of release agent. Secondly, the lid is so close to the size of the top of the foundry, the loops of the handles on the foundry interfere with it seating properly.  I can push it on without too much trouble, but I may end up removing the handle as a permanent fix.  The final issue goes back to the vent hole in the center. I had difficulties with drilling through it with a hole saw because of the thickness.  Hence my recommendation to use something to mold the opening into the casting.


The Torch

When it comes to fuel sources there are two choices.  One is propane, which I’ll go into detail below.  The other is charcoal. Depending on the heats you are trying to achieve, charcoal is a perfectly valid option.  If you use lump charcoal instead of briquettes, you can even reach over 2000 degrees. If you go this route, you’ll use a hair drier some piping to provide air through the hole in the side of the foundry.  I did not go this route, so you will have to watch Grant’s videos for those instructions.

I went with propane. This is the more expensive way to go, but I felt it was more suited to how I would use it.  Plus it would get to the temperatures I needed. The rough parts list:

IMG_1806

I started with the nozzle.  Take a hex head plug with a 1/4″ NPT male nipple on it and drill a 6 mm hole straight down through the center of the top.  This needs to be a very straight hole, so use a drill press if you have one.  Then tap threads into the hole using a 6 mm-1.00 tap. This will fit a .025″/6 mm MIG welder wire feed contact tip. Take a 1/4″ steel coupling and file four sides (at 90 degrees) flat. Screw the contact tip into the brass plug and the plug into the coupling. Use thread tape on all connections.
The next step involves a bit of variation from Grant’s video.  He uses a steel 1.5″ to 1″ reducer coupling. I could not find that, so I had to reduce in two steps.  Take the 1.5″ to 1.25″ reducer and file a flat spot on four sides, all at 90 degrees. Then drill a hole for the set screws.  Grant uses a different size for his set screws, but I used the 6 mm size so I only had to buy one tap. This means I got slightly larger cap screws.  Drill a 6 mm hole through each of the flat spots, tap the holes and insert the cap screws. These four screws are then used to hold the nozzle we build earlier straight and centered pointing out of the smaller end of the reducer.

IMG_1810
Not the straightest holes, but they work.

If you managed to find the 1.5″ to 1″ reducer, you would just screw the six inch long, 1″ diameter pipe into this. Since I did not find one, I had to go to a 1.25″ threaded insert, into my next reducer then into the six inch pipe.

Theoretically you can do this without a regulator. I think that is a bad idea and will put a lot of stress on your components. Go to a local propane or plumbing supplier (not a big box store) and buy a regulator. They can also make an 8′ hose for you which will run between the regulator and the 45 degree elbow with a 3/8″ flare to 1/4″ male pipe.  The 1/4″ end of the elbow will join one end of the 1/4″ NPT Female ball valve (Make sure the lever on the ball valve can be actuated without running into anything.  Ideally you want it to turn away from the torch body). The other end of the ball valve will use the 1/4″ x 1/4″ NPT male fitting to join the nozzle we built earlier.  Again, use thread tape on all connections.  You should now have a completed torch which will fit into the hole in the side of the foundry.

 

To control airflow, cut a Pac-Man shape out of a tuna can lid. This can be slid over the pipe where it screws into the nozzle.  Sliding it back and forth will adjust the amount of air the flame gets.

The completed foundry:


The Crucible

Buy one.  Seriously.  They are less than 20 bucks for decent sizes.  I bought a #3-4KG clay graphite crucible from amazon for $19.95, then found one cheaper later. That size fits rather nicely in this foundry by the way.

You will need to season your crucible. This is basically heating it with borax until the borax turns liquid, then coating the interior of the crucible with the liquid.  I did my test firing of the foundry at the same time I seasoned my crucible.


The Firing

I have to admit, the the first firing did not go so well. It took forever to get up to temp, and I’m not sure it ever really got there.  It ended up burning for two hours before the borax I was using to season the crucible started to turn liquid. I suspect this is because the plaster still had a bit of moisture to cook off combined with my inexperience at fuel/air ratios.

The next day I tried my first real smelting. I was trying to make leaded bronze from it’s component metals. The foundry came up to temp in about 20 minutes this time, melting the copper in the crucible and forming the bronze in under 30 minutes.

In all honesty, the first smelting was a failure for what I was trying to accomplish, but a success for having a working foundry. While the copper, tin, and other trace metals alloyed as expected, the lead proved immiscible in copper.  I’ve talked it over with some folks and have ideas of what to try on my next attempt.  In the mean time, here’s a video of the first pour.


Links/Sources

  1. The foundry – How To Make The Mini Metal Foundry by Grant Thompson, The King of Random
  2. Propane Conversion – Convert Your Backyard Foundry to Propane! by Grant Thompson, The King of Random
  3. Updates – Don’t Build a Metal Foundry Until you See This First by Grant Thompson, The King of Random

Seumas’ Elevation Gift (And many Ooops/Learning experinces)

One of the coolest things to get asked to do is elevation gifts. This is one I specifically asked to do. Seumas is one of my mentors in wood working, and I was excited to be able to help celebrate his knighting in this way.

Sir Seumas has a very early period and rustic persona. We jokingly call him Captain Caveman. I know people may scoff, but I don’t know very many people who are more dedicated to their persona than Seumas. He researches a time and place which is poorly documented and rarely studied.

I wanted his box to blend with his aesthetic. It would just look wrong for him to have a high gothic style 15th century coffrette.  I thought back to the earlier forms of boxes: dugout boxes.

In addition to all this, I wanted to avoid using power tools. While I did not have all the most appropriate hand tools nor did I have the time (and money) to acquire them, I thought this was a good compromise. I ended up having to break this once as you’ll see below.


Construction

First I started with a log.  Yup, a log.  I put a call out to my friends on Facebook asking if anyone had any oak firewood that was nice and dry.  Baron William Scrivener was nice enough to deliver three good oak logs to me at an event.

So, then I had to remove the bark.  Simple, but messy.

Now I needed to make a bottom.  This log had a nice ridge on one side that gave it a natural bottom.  So, I split off a small slice of wood to begin flattening.  Then I used a draw-knife and hand plane to finish the flattening process. This should have been started with an axe, but I couldn’t find mind.  So, improvised chisels to the rescue!

I needed to split off the ‘lid’ now.  It was pretty much the same process as splitting off the bottom, but it was a higher percentage of the log. both the top of the log and the bottom of the top were then flattened.

The next step is to “square up the ends.  I was trying to get rid of some checking that had happened naturally and get to more solid wood.  I probably should have gone deeper. (By the way, Seumas made the bow saw in the picture).

 

Without a fro, I was going to need to hollow this log with chisels.  No big deal I thought. I have really sharp chisels.  I have a bit and brace. I have the skills.  I’ve carved oak before.  It turns out I can be tremendously mistaken at times. I really think the center part of this log was partially petrified.

So thus I had to result to a power tool.  I used a power drill to set the depth and perimeter of the dugout.  Then I finished cleaning out the middle with said formerly sharp chisels. Here you can see part of the progress and the beginning of my rodent bedding business (the shavings on the floor).

IMG_1365

And now for my next problem.  I didn’t remove enough ‘bad material.  As the center was removed, the left and right walls started to crumble. They were just too dry and weakend by the checking. I wish there was some super cool period way to fix this, but I don’t know of it.  So, I resorted to SCIENCE!  To save the piece I ended up stabilizing the end by using West Systems Epoxy.


Carving

I wanted to keep it fairly simple. His chosen icon is a wheel, so I wanted to put it on top.  I carefully located the center of the top, drew in the design and prepared to start carving.(You can actually see that I have started setting the perimeter of the outer circle in this picture)

IMG_1400

What you can’t see is all that careful laying out of the exact center was in vein.  I missed, badly. I couldn’t exactly go back and shorten the box at this point. So, what to do.  I had always planned to do more carving than just the wheel. Seumas made this amazing shield years ago.  I drew some inspiration from it.

shield
Shield by Jason Currin, Photo Credit to Susan Baker Farmer.

I surrounded the wheel with the swirls to hide the off-center nature of the top. I also used the arc motif to highlight some natural features in the face of the box.

 

It’s at this point that the Great Table Saw Incident of 2017 happened (working on something else). For those who were wondering, I was in the wood shop the next day putting the first coat of linseed oil on this project one handed.

Thankfully I have an amazing squire, Baron Robert Throckmorton who came over the day after to help.  He mounted the hinges, finished applying the oil, and helped with some other things I needed to get done before Gulf Wars.

And here is the finished project:

Tribute Box

I thought long and hard trying to decide if writing this post was the correct thing to do. This box was made to pay tribute to someone who was dearly loved by all and sadly taken from us in 2016. His loss shook our entire Kingdom, and the tremors were felt throughout the Known World.

In his heart, Earl Richard was a mentor, a teacher, and a father to us all. He would always be the first to offer help and the last to accept it. I believe he would want this post written to help teach and inspire others.

I have piddled in woodworking most of my life.  In the past I never thought I was anything more than a Wal Mart level woodworker. Earl Richard is one of my inspirations. I saw the beautiful work he did in his camp furniture and his home and said, “I want to try that.”

Now I have people come to me to tell me how much they enjoy and are inspired by these posts. Thank you Richard for your inspiration, your words of support, and your love. I miss you my friend.


Since Richard was primarily known for his chip carving, I decided this box would feature that art form. It didn’t need to be big for it’s purpose, so I wanted it to be small and easy to handle.

For those that don’t know, Richard loved trees. He worked for the Georgia Forestry Service for as long as I knew him. His house was in a pecan orchard.  Pecan trees are the life blood of south Georgia.  As it happened, I had some pecan wood lying around, so this was my choice for wood.

Recently Earl Richard had adopted a crusader persona. Thus the design for the carving was inspired by the design of the churches and cathedrals. Admittedly probably from a much later period, but still I wanted something that evoked the awe of a Gothic cathedral.

I did my design in SketchUp.  It’s a free 3D drafting program. While intimidating to learn at first, it becomes intuitive very quickly.  I highly recommend it and that you scour YouTube for instructional videos. They will help explain things which initially make little to no sense. It was my feeling that this should be a challenging project, so I made the design extremely intricate.

I am not going to rehash the base construction method. I cut and planed the boards to length and thickness. Then I used dovetails (hand cut) to construct the box. I did the cuts and dry fit before I started carving, but I didn’t do final assembly until after. The bottom is rabbeted to accept the sides and is glued in place.

The second challenge I gave myself was to do a coffered top. The angles may seem simple at the start. Each ‘side’ of the top will need a 30 degree miter on the top and bottom.  The top plate will need a 30 degree angle on each side. While the corners start with 45 degree miters at the bottom, as the sides taper in, the angle changes along the length of the corner.

untitled

I ended up creating a shooting board to try to get the angles correct.  I also built a template for the shooting board to hold the pieces at the proper 30 degree angle. The shooting board is nothing more than a board with another, smaller board attached to it leaving enough of the bottom board sticking out to fully support a hand plane. Then you can use your plane to  put an exact edge on the board.

I used the shooting plane to give me precise edges on the top plate.

img_1163

Then a dry fit of the complete top.  Trust me when I say that this challenge is not over.

Now it’s time to move to the carving.


 

I have recently adopted the idea of using spray adhesive to apply a print out of the carving to the wood. This helps me see the lines better and makes it easier to lay out patterns.

I ended up doing three separate patterns for this piece. The first is the pattern used on the angle sides of the top.

richardtop1

The second is what I call the ‘arch pattern’ which was used on all four sides of the main carcass.

richarddesign

The flat panel of the top receives the third ‘pattern’. It primarily focuses on Earl Richard’s device. His device will be flanked by the horses which were originally drawn by Master Johannes.

richardflat

The sides of the top were the first thing to get carved. I used a small chip carving knife for all the cuts.

Next were the sides of the box itself. The design was meant to evoke the feeling of the gothic cathedral arches and rose windows. In addition to the carving knife, I used a round gouge (Pfiel 8/5) to do the cross work at the bottom of the pieces. Some of the pictures feature a quarter for scale.

The top was done in a relief carving style.

Now for the construction.


The box went together as normal. The dovetails were glued together and clamped.  Once dry I marked the rabbet on the bottom. The rabbet was cut with a shoulder plane after being defined by a shoulder cut. Once assembled and dry I used a very sharp block plane to flush up all of the joints.

img_1259

The top was another story.  I am not sure if the pieces moved between the time I cut them and the time I assembled them, but the angles did not match up as well as I would have hoped. In the pictures you can see the gaps which appeared after I did the glue up.

I was faced with a dilemma. I did not want to redo the carving.  Breaking apart the box to attempt to reassemble would likely have destroyed the pieces. I had no choice but to move forward.

I have never had much luck with commercial wood fillers. They never look right.

Mixing wood glue and saw dust works okay for small problem areas (but the dust needs to be pristine so you’re not working dirt into the joint). Also if you are going to do this, once you get the defect filled with the mixture, rub it with more of the pristine saw dust.

What I chose to do instead was to install small patches.  I cut ‘slivers’ out of the extra material that came to a sharp point and matched the angles of the joint. I glued them in place and used blue tape to provide clamping pressure. Once dry, I paired them down to flush with a sharp block plane. Any remaining gaps were filled with wood glue and sawdust described above.

I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of this process.  I was really disgusted with the project and I was on the verge of starting over. I considered this a last ditch attempt. If there is one lesson to learn here, it’s to never give up.  Very few projects go smoothly from the start. There is such a sense of relief and accomplishment when you pull a project back from the bring of disaster.

I found a couple of more issues when I went to put the hardware on. I didn’t want to use a latch, because I didn’t want to ruin the carving. When I went to mount the hinges, the angle of the sides of the top caused the screws to protrude through the top. Shortening the screws was out of the question because they were so short to begin with. I ended up choosing to mount the upper portion of the hinge on the outside of the top. Instead of the glaringly modern screws, I drove nails through and cinched them down.

At one point I was convinced this was lost. But I ended up being very happy with the result. I finished the project with four coats of boiled linseed oil.